Saturday, March 10, 2007

World Golf Interview and Profile

I've been featured in two columns by William K. Wolfrum in the last week. I had a great deal of fun talking with him and William has even offered help with getting information on Stanley Thompson's work in Brazil.

The first article is titled: Golf course architecture much more than celebrity names and big paychecks

"Much like in normal architecture, however, the real work gets done behind the scenes, by people with names that you probably do not recognize. But when you talk to guys like Ian Andrew and Rick Jacobson, you see that the spirit of golf architecture is still alive and well, and in capable hands."

See the article at this link:

The second is a profile on my business and my blog:

Golf architect Ian Andrew waits at the Caddy Shack for his big design project

"March 5, 2007) - Ian Andrew knew all along that he'd be a golf course architect. He just never imagined he'd spend so much time writing about it."

Friday, March 09, 2007

1900-1910 – Part 2 – The United States

The 9th at Myopia Hunt

In the United States golf course architecture took dramatic strides with three particular courses.

Herbert Leeds was dissatisfied with state of American architecture. He convinced the members of Myopia Hunt to let him design them a much better golf course than they had. The course he laid out then is still largely intact today and features some of the greatest natural green sites and rolling green contours you will find anywhere. He was the first to build a great course in the United States, using the land to full advantage and the addition of some very deep bunkers to create superior strategies. Even by today’s standards some of the original holes are still some of the best in the United States. The other interesting feature was the famous chocolate drop mounds created by burying the stone walls found on site, these mounds certainly had future influence on the use of mounding to add definition.

A Travis addition to Garden City

Garden City was a built around the same time as Myopia Hunt. It was initially routed and planned by Deverault Emmett using shallow bunkers and cross hazards, but the course also made great use of the land and feature frequent changes in direction to catch different winds on each hole. The course came into major prominence when Walter Travis filled in many of the cross bunkers and deepened all the green side bunkers to make the course much more difficult for the US Open. It was Travis’s changes that completely changed the nature of the course and largely made it what it is today. Travis was one of the first men to write extensively on architecture and was a huge proponent of strategic design. He was often misinterpreted to be from the penal school because of his belief about the depth and penalty of bunkers. His ideas and writing, were even influential than his later career as an architect, since he helped change the early perceptions on what golf architecture should be and helped shape the game.

The spectacular National Golf Links of America

The final course to shape the era was the National Golf Links of America designed by Charles Blair McDonald. He set out to build the greatest course in America and went across to Europe to study the best holes the game had to offer. He reviewed and wrote about their strategies and drew his own conclusions upon what elements of what holes that he should adapted to create the perfect golf course. And by god he nearly did, since his adaptations were so good that most exceeded the quality of the original hole including the great Redan from North Berwick.

What all three of these architects did is set the new standard for expectations in the United States. Each one was able to create something even better than the last architect and showed America that they could have their own great course equal to the greatest courses of Scotland.

A Scotsman named Donald Ross also came to the Boston area and began to design or revise a few of the courses around the area – but he’s a subject for another decade.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

1900-1910 - Part 1 of 2 – Out of the Heathlands

Sunningdale by Willie Park, later remodelled by Harry Colt

I talked about people like Morris, Strath and Robertson being the initial architects that began to shape golf course architecture, but it was Willie Park Jr. who was really the first golf course architect. With his work at the turn of the century at Sunningdale and Huntercombe he introduced golf to a whole new style of golf courses by cutting courses right out of the heathlands where often trees had to be removed to create holes. The new tree lined fairways had a definition and enclosure that many players found just as appealing as the open links. Willie also went one step further by manipulating grades to create tee sites and green sites, and even altered some grades to create landing areas too, and golf architecture as we know it today was born.

He also began to create greens that had rolling green contours very much akin to the ones found on the links courses and built bunkers that were far more natural looking than pot bunkers. He even placed them in important strategic locations or natural rolls for full effect. The courses featured imaginative routing that maximized the land, but also this new architecture that created great strategies and great beauty. And he was not alone. His peers, Harry Colt, J.F. Abercromby and Herbert Fowler (together with Park were called the Healthland Quartet) embarked on creating some of the greatest courses around London that still stand the test of time today. Without this work as an example, many of the early inland courses that shaped golf in other nations may not have occurred so soon.

Colt's plan for Toronto Golf Club

Harry Colt is probably the most important architect is history. Colt not only designed a series of outstanding courses around London, but continued to provide the initial outstanding courses for many countries throughout the world. Canada, for example, is blessed by both Toronto Golf Club and Hamilton G&CC which are both two of the finest layouts in the country. Colt’s skill in routing and his knowledge of strategic design created the basis of future golf design embraced in the golden age. Almost every great architect at one point has indicated the debt they owe to Harry Colt and the influence both his work and his writings have had on them. Even the long history of great architects that worked out of his office from Charles Alison to Alister Mackenzie proved he was just as great a teacher to those around him.

Early Colt bunkering

Colt had a secondary influence concerning the way things were done, he introduced the idea of working drawings. Colt was the first to create planting plans, construction details and field instructions. He even ran an office with Alison using correspondence to stay involved from abroad. He was a man way ahead of his time, which included the integrating of housing and golf together. He even went as far as to recommend turf grass selection and other agronomic improvements to ensure his courses made for fine playing conditions. He had all the required skills to achieve excellent golf courses and is the basis for what an architect must know – even today.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Next Series....The Influence of Each Decade

This by no means will be definitive, but I thought it should be fun to walk through decade by decade the changes to golf architecture and what it meant to architects practicing today. The first post below is more informative than educational, but as I move forward, I will try show where architecture was shaped and by who. I’ve already discovered that a blog per decade will not work out and the next 10 years will be divided into America and the United Kingdom. I thought this perspective may be entertaining, but also informative to how much architecture is a layered learning process and how much we continue to pull from the past for answers even today. I will try interjecting more opinion and a little less fact as I go, so its not just pure history which you can get from books.

Pre 1900 - The earliest architects

Early St. Andrew's

I’m intentionally avoiding any reference to the origins of the game or the development of links golf which had more to do with finding holes and natural green sites. What I wanted to talk about in this series is the hand of man, where he made changes, what features he added and his eventual impact on architecture. The idea is to take a look at the good and the bad ideas that were introduced along the way and their overall impact on the architecture we have today. This by no means is intended to be definitive since I do not have the time or the resources to really be accurate enough – this is an opinion piece where I will try my best to show the development of golf course architecture.

For perspective, I will make quick mention of Tom Morris and the earliest designers of the late 1800’s who largely spent a single day on site laying out the entire course or making changes to the rudimentary courses that existed at the time. For the most part these architects went about finding natural green sites and linking holes from one great green site to another. The courses were full of blind shots, narrow fairways and were largely bordered by whins which while difficult were simply part of the game. Over time the courses were made easier through additional widening, or tougher through the introduction of created or formalized hazards. Professionals like Alan Robertson (the Old Course) and David Strath (North Berwick) were entrusted to make adjustments to the courses and thus became the earliest golf course architects – their work would eventually have a huge hand in the development of golf architecture. They began to build new greens and add hazards to influence play and make the courses more interesting – they ended up creating many of the earliest strategies like the Redan.

The Redan before the turn of the century

At the same time there was another group of architects, like Willie Dunn, who were building manufactured courses that were far different from the links. They largely gave rise to the penal school of golf courses architecture and featured artificial landforms that were often geometric. They had a tendency to offer courses with steeple jump like hazards that had to be carried, and the architecture tended to tell you where not to go and what not to do. When compared to the open invitation to find the ideal route presented by the links, it is no wonder that Tom Simpson describe this as “the dark ages: “They failed to reproduce any of the feature sof the courses on which they were born and bred, or to realize the principles in which they were made. Their imagination took them no further than the conception of flat gun platform greens, invariable oblong, round or square, supported by railroad embankment sides or batters….The bunkers were constructed on the fairways way be described as rectangular ramparts of a peculiar obnoxious type, stretching at regular intervals across the golf course and having no architectural value whatsoever.”

A Willie Dunn bunker

The penal school’s influence was not all bad and the philosophy was carried through into a number of very famous layouts we revere today, but the early rudimentary geometric architecture was quickly replaced by a desire to have more natural looking features and an aesthetic which we also revere today.

Some key moments of the century included: St. Andrew’s changing the holes closest to the clubhouse leaving only 18 holes in 1764, Tom Morris introducing the idea of returning nines and the double loop at Muirfield, the subtle introduction of strategy into the links course through the placement of some of the earliest introduced hazards and formally planned greens.